A few days ago, my husband wrote a post about being a faithful husband, and it has left me thinking about what it means to be a faithful wife. Being a wife to my husband is one of the great delights of my life, but I have more to learn. These thoughts are, like his, offered with the ideal in mind, even though I fall far short of it.
1. A faithful wife is a faithful Christian. This means that she has come to the place in her life where she sees her own sins against God as her greatest problem and the love of Christ for her that led Him to live and die for her as her greatest treasure. She is a woman who has been so loved by Christ that she loves Him in return and longs to do all that He has commanded her. It is from this place – from being loved by Christ – that she is freed to be a faithful wife to her husband instead of needing and demanding that her husband love her the way she wants to be loved. Christ’s love for her makes her able to begin to be the wife Christ calls her to be.
2. A faithful wife is a helper to her husband. God said, “It is not good for a man to be alone; I will make a helper fit for him” (Gen 2:18). Under God, her mission in this world is her husband and the home they create together. That means she is his “necessary ally.” She is oriented to use her words, her time, and her actions to edify, encourage, and support her husband in Christ, to aid him in his God-given calling in this world. She may do that primarily at home, but she may also do it by working outside of the home (as we see the Proverbs 31 woman buying a field and selling garments). But a wife’s primary calling is to her husband. He is her first consideration under God, and when her husband sees that she has his best interest at heart, he easily trusts her. Her desire is to do him good and not evil in all that she says and does, where “good” is defined by God speaking in His Word.
3. A faithful wife respects her husband. God tells wives to see to it that they respect their husbands (Eph 5:33). Respecting her husband means giving honor to his desires, thoughts, opinions, work, and achievements. A Christian wife learns to respect her husband by looking to Jesus, who bled and died for her sins to give her eternal life. And this Jesus tells her to respect her husband. She believes that doing what Jesus says must be for her good – even if her husband is acting in ways that do not deserve respect. I do not mean that a wife should respect her husband’s sinful behavior. What I mean is that her husband’s godliness or ungodliness has nothing to do with her obedience to Christ’s command to “see that she respects her husband” (Eph 5:33). Nothing her husband does ought to prevent her from speaking and acting respectfully. And if her husband acts dishonorably, she should approach him with a respectful tone and manner, while not compromising truth as she confronts his sin. Respect looks like asking careful (not accusatory) questions to be sure she has understood the situation or opinions of her husband without jumping to conclusions, without disagreeing with his thoughts and ideas before having carefully listened, and without being combative. It is easy for a Christian wife to respect a faithful husband. But under Christ, a faithful wife can respect an unfaithful husband without compromising truth or righteousness.
4. A faithful wife submits to her husband. God says, “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord” (Eph 5:22). Jesus gives this command to wives for whom He bled and died to purchase them out of slavery to sin and misery. It comes from Christ’s merciful heart of love to them and for them. That means a wife’s submission to her husband is first to the Lord Jesus Christ. A faithful wife learns how to submit to a sinful husband by believing that Jesus loves her, and desires good for her, and only gives her good commandments. Her submission to the Lord Jesus makes her bold to submit her own will to her husband instead of demanding that he submit to her. Christ’s love for her convinces her that His way is better than her own. Christ’s love for her also makes her confident to stand for Christ, against all unrighteousness and falsehood, and even to oppose her husband if he remains in unrepentant sin. Submission never means accommodating abuse or harmful behavior. Rather, it means honoring Christ and submitting to Him, even above her husband. And her submission to Christ also makes her humble to yield to her husband on all things that are not a matter of sin. She may not yield to her husband, if he tries to take the place of God in the home, or rob her of liberty to follow Him in wisdom.
5. Finally, a faithful wife witnesses the gospel to her husband. She understands that the Lord Jesus has forgiven her of great sins against a perfectly and infinitely holy God. That gospel grace means she can forgive her husband from the heart of his relatively small sins against her. She understands that God treats her as righteous, even though she is not righteous, only because of Christ and His righteousness. That allows her treat her husband as though he is righteous, even though he is not. She understands that God in Christ has loved her, even when she was unlovely, and that enables her to love her husband by keeping God’s commands toward him, even when he is unlovely. And she knows the precious words of life that God speaks to her because of Jesus: forgiven, righteous, loved, family, friend, and so she uses her tongue to speak gospel words to her husband reminding him of the love of Jesus and the hope of a better world to come. “She opens her mouth in wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue” (Prov 31:26). Christ Himself and knowing Him personally is the only way a wife can be the faithful, respectful and submissive helper God has called her to be to her husband.